As a former nurse, I can attest to how a simple touch can change someone’s life. It gives hope for the sick and provides comfort for the grieving.
Indeed, our hands work in mysterious ways.
But just like the way they work to heal those around us, our hands can also heal us from within. Hand reflexology may not be as popular as foot reflexology, but both share the same goals–to provide holistic healing and prevent diseases.
After scouring the Internet for the best information about hand reflexology, I discovered that there’s no single source that tackles the subject in depth. For this reason, I’ve written this condensed guide with the hopes of convincing you to try hand reflexology and experience the same benefits it brought to my life.
A Brief History of Hand Reflexology.
Evidence suggests reflexology has been practiced for thousands of years. The ancient Chinese, for instance, started using acupressure 5,000 years ago. Egyptians were likewise familiar with hand and foot massage, as proven by an ancient wall art discovered inside a 6th dynasty tomb in Saqqarah.
The introduction of reflexology to the Western world is largely attributed to Dr. William Fitzgerald, an American ear, nose and throat specialist. While in Europe, Fitzgerald became intrigued by pressure therapies and later devised his own which he later called “zone therapy.”
According to this healing method, the body is divided into 10 longitudinal zones which run from the toes to the brain and extend all the way down to the arms and fingers. By applying pressure to a specific zone, one can restore the energy flow and therefore provide healing to any body part situated within the same zone.
In the 1930s, Eunice Ingham refined the ideas popularized by Fitzgerald. She was the first person to introduce foot reflexology as we know it today and also the first one to write books about the topic: Stories The Feet Can Tell (1938) and Stories The Feet Have Told (1951).
One of Ingham’s students, Doreen Bayly, took her mentor’s teachings to another level. She popularized the use of flexed fingers or thumbs when applying pressure, significantly reducing strain injuries among practitioners. Bayly has also been credited for introducing reflexology to Great Britain and publishing a book called Reflexology Today which contains the first hand reflexology chart.
Hand reflexology was already being practiced in the US as early as 1950s. One of the earliest practitioners was Mildred Carter, who was likewise trained by Eunice Ingham. Carter followed the principles of zone therapy and used various tools when delivering hand reflexology to her clients.
Published in 1975, Carter’s book Hand Reflexology: Key To Perfect Health, is considered one of the first books to fully explore the subject of hand reflexology.
Hand Reflexology versus Foot Reflexology.
According to reflexology, both our hands and feet contain several reflex points that correspond to different parts of the body. Stimulating or applying pressure to these points removes blockages in energy flow, restores balance and ultimately provides healing to the body.
Although hand reflexology is relatively less popular than foot reflexology, there are instances when the former is the only logical choice. This is true for those with recent foot fractures, thrombosis or embolism, osteoarthritis of the feet or ankles, vascular disease of the feet and legs, active gout and open wounds on the feet.
Some people also prefer to receive hand reflexology because they have very ticklish or sweaty feet.
When it comes to self-reflexology, working on your hands instead of the feet is more ideal especially if you’re doing it in a public setting and you don’t want to attract attention. Self-reflexology of the hands is also a better option for the elderly who would have otherwise struggled to reach for their feet.
Lastly, hand reflexology is more tolerable for some people who aren’t used to having strangers touching sensitive parts of their body such as the feet. It’s also a good way to familiarize yourself with your own hands, thereby preventing future injuries–all the more crucial if you rely on your hands to make a living.
Health Benefits of Hand Reflexology.
While there is little scientific data to prove the effectiveness of hand reflexology, its proponents remain firm about its far-reaching impact on our health.
Before trying it out, remember that the goal of reflexology is to complement and not to totally replace traditional medical treatment. Therefore, hand reflexology should never be used to either diagnose or treat diseases.
The following are some of the health benefits you can get by doing a simple hand reflexology massage:
Reduced pain. Whenever we experience pain, our body releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that work like morphine.
The same natural painkiller is released when pressure is applied to the reflex points of the hands. As a result, the signals that inform the body about the pain are overpowered by the level of endorphins in the body.
This leads to less pain, which can be especially beneficial for those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and frozen shoulder, among others.
Improved digestion. Hand reflexology, just like any other type of massage, helps boost blood circulation. By improving blood flow to and from the intestines, absorption of nutrients and elimination of metabolic wastes become faster and more efficient.
Reduced stress and tension. Hand reflexology helps release “feel-good” chemicals in the body such as endorphins. Besides, the hands are closer to the spine and the nerve roots, so applying pressure on them can help relax the central nervous system at a much quicker pace. With regular reflexology, stress and all its drastic effects on the body will be significantly reduced.
Improved metabolism. Since reflexology helps improve blood circulation, it also indirectly speeds up metabolism. As a result, toxic wastes are eliminated efficiently from the body through urine, sweat, stool and respiration. Without proper elimination, these toxins will accumulate in the body and may lead to deadly consequences.
Better health. Hand reflexology is based on the belief that our hands contain reflex points connected to different body organs. By stimulating these reflex zones, our body can enjoy less pain, improved immune system, faster healing and better overall health.
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, reflexology also speeds up recovery from hand injury, as long as its done on hands with no open wounds or fracture. Hand reflexology also maintains manual dexterity and provides additional stimulation on target reflex points should you decide foot reflexology is not enough.
Contraindications To Hand Reflexology.
Hand reflexology isn’t a cure for all illnesses. Instead, it’s designed to provide complementary therapy and work alongside traditional medical treatments.
The following is a list of contraindications to hand reflexology or cases which may require immediate medical attention:
Liver disorder | Recent surgery | Unstable blood pressure | Diabetes | Epilepsy | Infections | Skin allergy | Fractures or sprains | Under the influence of drugs or alcohol | Heart problems | First trimester of pregnancy.
Related Article: 5 Things You Need To Know About Pregnancy Foot Massage
Hand Reflexology Chart For Beginners.
The hand reflexology map below is based on the original teachings of Eunice Ingham, a pioneer in Western reflexology.
As I mentioned above, one of her students named Doreen Bayly introduced reflexology in Great Britain and published a book containing what has been considered as one of the first drawings of a reflexology hand chart.
Designed by the International Institute of Reflexology, the hand reflexology chart below has an enlarged version for home or personal use available for purchase through this website.
How To Give Hand Reflexology Massage: A Step-By-Step Guide.
The video below was handpicked because it’s such a delight to listen to on top of being very easy to understand. However, it covers the entire hand and almost all the reflex zones, with the goal of rejuvenating the whole body.
If you have a specific problem you want to address through hand reflexology, the next section (i.e., “Hand Reflexology For Specific Conditions”) should come in handy.
If you’re craving for a hand reflexology but there’s no one around to give it to you, the video below will teach how to do it yourself.
It includes relaxation techniques before and after the hand reflexology, as well as simple strokes that will stimulate the spine, brain, stomach and brain reflexes, among others. For as short as 1 minute, you can easily do a hand reflexology self-massage anytime and anywhere.
Hand Reflexology For Specific Conditions.
The following are the most common disorders that can be addressed with the help of hand reflexology. Don’t forget to use the hand reflexology chart above as a guide to ensure you’ll hit the right spots.
Hand Reflexology for Headache.
At the juncture of the thumb and pointer finger is a soft tissue area where the adrenal gland reflex (see hand reflexology chart for reference) is located. The adrenal gland helps restore the balance in the body in times of stress. In the process, it also relieves stress-related symptoms such as headaches.
What To Do: Apply pressure to the adrenal gland reflex for a few seconds or more. Do this in the front or back side of the hand. You can also apply pressure on both sides simultaneously. Repeat as often as you like.
Hand Reflexology For Sleep.
For many of us, sleeping soundly at night takes a lot of effort. With million things swirling in our minds, it’s difficult to lull ourselves to sleep without relying on medications.
But there’s a safer way: By stimulating the pituitary gland, our body can release melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep and prevents insomnia.
What To Do: Find the pituitary/pineal reflex at the center of the thumb’s upper portion and in the middle of the fingerprint swirl. Press this reflex point using the thumb, nail or finger knuckle of the other hand. Try to work as deeply as you can and keep the pressure on for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat on the other thumb.
Hand Reflexology For Back Pain.
We usually experience back aches either after a strenuous exercise or sitting on our chair for a very long time. Surprisingly, aside from back massage, you can also relieve the pain by doing simple hand reflexology.
However, back pain is sometimes an indication of an underlying disorder. If the pain persists and doesn’t go away after massage or hand reflexology, please consult your physician to address any serious medical condition you might not have been aware of.
What To Do: Locate the spine reflex which runs from the side of the thumb and extends down to the lower portion of the hand just above the wrist. This reflex zone covers your entire back from the neck down to the hips. Apply circular pressure to this area for at least 10 times. Repeat on the other hand.
Important Pointers In Hand Reflexology.
⊕Hand reflexology works on opposites. This means the reflex points on the left hand correspond to the body parts on the right side, and the right reflex points correspond to the body parts on the left.
⊕Remove all jewelry and wash your hands before doing hand reflexology to prevent transfer or spread of communicable diseases. If you have cold hands, immerse them in warm water to avoid causing discomfort to the receiver.
⊕Depending on the receiver’s preference, you can use oil, lotion or cream as a massage lubricant. This will further enhance the relaxing effects of hand reflexology. Take note that lotions are absorbed by the skin faster than oils. Here’s a list of homemade oil recipes I compiled recently. You can also check out this list of the best massage lotions and creams on the market.
⊕Never use hand reflexology to diagnose, treat or prescribe medications. Speak in general terms so the receiver won’t misinterpret your assessment/evaluation as part of a conventional medical treatment.
⊕When the person has an undiagnosed or unexplained pain on the hands or fingers, please refer to a medical personnel. Hand reflexology should only be performed after a consultation with the doctor.
⊕When giving hand reflexology, ask the receiver how much pressure should be applied on the reflex points. Some people prefer deeper pressure while others want the exact opposite. Determine the person’s comfort level and ask occasionally to ensure you’re not going overboard.
⊕Trim your fingernails. Ensure they’re clean and short every time you’re giving hand reflexology. Don’t let your nails make contact with the receiver’s skin to avoid discomfort.
⊕Keep the pressure very light when doing hand reflexology on a baby or young child.
⊕Since the hands are less sensitive to treatment, you need to press the reflex points a little bit longer than in foot reflexology.
⊕Flex your thumbs when applying pressure on the receiver’s hands. This technique ensures less stress on your fingers, thereby preventing strain injuries.
⊕To avoid repetitive strain injury (RSI) on your fingers, use both your hands and apply light to medium pressure when giving hand reflexology.
⊕Warm-up exercises are also recommended for your hands and wrists to prevent injuries, strengthen grip as well as improve coordination and manual dexterity. These exercises should last for at least 1-2 minutes and must be done prior to performing hand reflexology. They can be as simple as squeezing a tennis ball in both hands, pushing the hand against the wall, or interlocking the fingers of both hands before rotating them clockwise and then counterclockwise.
⊕Once the hand reflexology session is complete, you can give the client/receiver a glass of water to help flush out all the toxins from the body.
Faure-Alderson, M. (2016). Total Reflexology of the Hand: An Advanced Guide to the Integration of Craniosacral Therapy and Reflexology (1st ed.). Inner Traditions / Bear & Co.
Fischer, V. (2015). Hand Reflexology: A Guide For Hand Reflexology Self-Massage (1st ed.). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Hall, N. (2016). Hand Reflexology for Practitioners: Reflex Areas, Conditions and Treatments (1st ed.). Singing Dragon.
Keet, L. (2009). The Reflexology Bible: The Definitive Guide to Pressure Point Healing (1st ed.). Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
Kunz, B. & Kunz, K. (2001). Hand Reflexology Workbook: How to Work on Someone’s Hands (1st ed.). Reflexology Research Project.
Rich, T. (2008). Power At Your Fingertips. International Therapist, (80).